A Stoke on Trent operator kept his vehicles in such a bad condition that a traffic commissioner branded it “truly shocking” and that they were a threat to other road users.
Paul Thomas Removals lost its licence to operate lorries after an appearance before TC Nick Denton at a Birmingham PI following three investigations by the DVSA between 2019 and 2021, which uncovered widespread failures at the firm. These included inspection intervals stretching beyond 10 weeks; an MOT failure rate of 33% - around double the national average – no downloads of vehicle tacho cards and driver cards for most of 2020; drivers pulling their cards and working without them; a lorry driven while out of MOT and one vehicle found with 77 defects during a safety inspection.
At the PI, sole director and transport manager Paul Thomas said he had run a compliant operation before suffering from ill health in March 2020. He had suspended all removals operations during the first Covid lockdown, but that furlough payments and the need for some drivers to isolate had created confusion for much of the rest of the year. He admitted that a previous maintenance provider had been of poor quality, but a new one had been found and since then the MOT pass rate was 100%. In addition, he said he had attended a two-day transport manager CPC refresher course and he was now back in the office following his illness.
On behalf of the operator, Thomas’ solicitor said it was accepted that there was a question mark over his continuous and effective management during 2020, but that year had been highly atypical and the “green shoots of improvement were already there”. However, TC Denton disagreed and pointed out he had never seen a safety inspection sheet with 77 defects on it before.
In his written decision, the TC said: “I found it quite hard to see the green shoots of improvement to which Mr Woodcraft referred. My conclusion is that these positives are too little and come too late and come nowhere near compensating for the wholesale failure to monitor drivers’ hours and keep vehicles in a safe condition found throughout most of 2020 and much of 2021.” As well as licence revocation, Denton also disqualified Thomas from acting as a transport manager for two years.